Understanding Your Organization
Okay, you have found your desk, met your employees, and can find the boss in emergencies. Now, it is time to sit back, relax, and begin putting out all those fires left by your predecessor (be it the president who was writing all the documentation until you came along or your former boss who now works for you). If you follow this course, you probably won’t see daylight for months; you will also miss the opportunity to learn or relearn your organization.
Taking on a new job gives you a great excuse for wandering around asking questions-at least for the first month or so. Use that “get acquainted” meeting with your boss to drag out the organization chart and really see where your department fits into the larger picture.
End the meeting by asking who you should be talking with in Customer Support, Finance, Human Factors, Engineering, Marketing, Manufacturing, and Human Resources. If possible, ask your manager to introduce you to these key resources.
You should also have your “get acquainted” meetings with your employees to find out what they think is important, where the communication blocks are, and who has been a staunch ally.
Next, start your research-quietly, informally, and softly. Call the people who have been recommended to you and ask if they have a half hour to discuss their needs and interests with regard to your department. Ask open-ended questions, listen attentively, and spend a few minutes taking notes after talking with them. If they have asked for information or decisions, offer to check and get back to them-then do so. Finally, take the time to send an email thanking them.
Why go through this process? Several reasons-first, you have invited your manager and your employees to give you their perspective on the department and the organization. As Julie Bradbury noted in this issue’s Case Study, asking other people’s opinions is always a good first step. Second, you have let your internal clients, employees, and colleagues know that you are on the job and are looking to establish good working relationships. Third, you will begin to get a feel for what the organization considers important.
This process is especially important if you are making the transition from writer to manager or if you are moving from one level of management to another. You are, in effect, reinventing yourself in the eyes of others in your organization.
By the way, you can start this process at any time in your tenure-create a reason and make a little time each week. The payoff in visibility, respect, and opportunities is just awaiting your initiative.